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My Father Turns 80

Bethany dad

Dad with my niece Bethany, 1991

Today is my father’s 80th birthday. Wow. Happy Birthday, DB! You mean the world to me!YBG


I saw my father today. I walked into his room to find him staring out the window. He was wearing cranberry-colored sweats. My father would not have been caught dead in sweats prior to his nursing home days.

I say hello, daddy, and he says hello, Becky, and I say I’m Jenni, Dad, and he looks at me in disbelief. I say I’m 42 now, and he says, how’d you get so old so fast?

I tell him I sent one of his poems to a magazine-editor friend of mine, and I think maybe they’ll publish it. I tell him he is almost famous, and he says they better hurry up before he dies. My father has been making jokes about dying for 30 years.

I tell them they would like to see a poem about Oklahoma, but he shakes his head. I remind him about a poem he wrote about Bartlesville. He has no idea what I am talking about. The Corps of Engineers; that calamity so many years ago. They opened the dam and accidentally flooded the town. He was so angry, but he has forgotten it, like so many things.

I tell him I’m sorry he has to live in this home and he says he’ll be leaving it in a few days. Then he tells me he’s had a good life, and I tell him he has a lot to look forward to.

I’ve been trying to let my dad go, lately. I’ve been thinking of heaven and how his mother is there, and how very happy he’ll be to see her. I ask him if he remembers his mother and he says oh yes, she’s still alive.

It is almost noon and an aide with a tattoo scrolled across her neck comes in, pats him on the shoulder and says it’s time for lunch. He smiles and shakes his head no. You have to eat, she says, it will help your sugar. Then she tells me my father never talks. He’s a nice man she says; he never gives us any problems.

I’m so proud of my dad.

My father tells me that he is writing a book, and I ask him what it’s about. He thinks for a long time, and brushes back his hair and smiles and says he can’t remember. And, then I know, when I walked into the room and found my dad staring out the window – he was working on that book.


When I return home from the nursing home, everyone is in Sully’s room watching TV. I take out the meat clever and beat the raw chicken flat. Half an hour passes and I say, nobody asked how he was. And, Juliette says I didn’t want to ask because I didn’t want to make you cry. And I say, please come see me if I end up like that, and she says I’ll never live in a nursing home. You’ll live with me…

And, I think to myself, I used to say that. When I was 12 and could not live without my father.


March 4 Post Script

Today,  my father turns 80. He never thought he’d live this long. Neither did I. His talk of dying created such sorrow in me, that I began grieving his death at age 14. Maybe there is some mercy in this, although I’m not ready to talk about it.

I still love to hold my father’s hand. By some miracle, the Popeye muscles in his arms have not atrophied, and every time I see him, I say, make a muscle! just like I did when I was little. He smiles and makes a muscle and, I hold onto his arm as he sits in the wheelchair. I’m more aware than ever that the blood running through his body is warm and alive. It holds me still.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Something Happened Somewhere Turning

    Such a lovely string of words, Jen. And I am so sorry that it hurts so much. I know I’ve shared how hard it was for us when Lois’ mom Mary had to go to the nursing home.
    I feel it all over again when I read this: “And I say, please come see me if I end up like that.”
    This is all so familiar that I can almost hear these words coming from my wife’s mouth.
    We miss her mom dearly.

  2. Territory Mom

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Happy b-day to your dad. Heaven is on my mind too.

  3. John Hayes

    A happy birthday to your dad. The part about him writing a book is very poignant; a wonderful & moving post.

  4. Lance

    That was so touching, so real, so full of care and love. Know that, today especially your words have landed upon my heart and touched my soul. Life is precious….

    Happy Birthday to your dad.

    And to you, Jen, keep always being as real and open as you are…it is such a beautiful thing…

  5. Oklahoma Girl

    That is just beautiful in such a sad, sad way. I wanted to quit work & keep my Grandma home when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I just hated her being in a home. But, in the long run, it was the safest place for her. Your Dad is so lucky to have you, & on a level that you can never reach he knows you & knows this. Knows he is proud of the wonderful woman you have become. Is proud of all you do & that you hold his memories dear. All the memories he has forgotten. Enjoy the times you can have with him, enjoy what he can communicate. At least he is still verbal, is peaceful, & cheerful with everyone. This is a true blessing.

    Take care, dear girl! I love you!!
    ~~blessed be…

  6. Anonymous


    What a beautiful day– I was able to attend the Birthday Party for your dad at the Center. Cake, ice cream and punch. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and couldn’t believe he was 80 years old.

    I read his card to him and gave him his present — Polo colgne and a red OU tee shirt. With a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile, he said, “I’m not and Okie.” Right! Once a Texan — Always a TEXAN! 🙂

    Hugs– Mom

  7. Sabrina Whetham

    This was a very touching post. I am not able to be close with my father but it reminds me alot of my grandfather and also of an old friend that passed away a few years ago after fighting MS. He beat it, but eventually he was ready to go home. But I will always remember his funeral. It was the most liveliest funeral I have ever been to. We celebrated all day the life he lived with us… and the life he is now leading in heaven.

  8. glynis

    I’ve walked in your shoes and I’m sorry. Sorry for the hope that fades, the heart that hurts, the longings that won’t leave and the little pieces that slip away each day. If I could, I’d give you a hug, tell you it really be ok and I’d cry with you. Then we could pray for your dad. If he likes to fish, my dad will show him around when he gets there. Until then please know you are not alone.


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